(CBS) – There’s a new warning for summer travelers. If you’re in a rush for a new passport, you may be out of luck. Scammers forced the State Department to shut down its online bookings for urgent appointments.
If you head to any U.S. Passport office, you’re likely to face long lines, if you’re lucky enough to even get an appointment.
The State Department said third-party actors are using bots to book all available online appointments. Some are selling for as high as $3,000 to applicants with urgent travel needs.
The State Department admits they have a staffing issue, and they’re scrambling to complete an extraordinary backlog of passport applications. Two million passports are currently waiting to be cleared. The current wait for a passport is up to 18 weeks.
“During the pandemic, they sent their people home. And right now we’re over one point six million passports in backlog that they can’t process,” said Peter Greenburg, CBS News Travel Editor.
The surge is also due to newly-vaccinated Americans looking to go abroad.
“We are working as expeditiously as we possibly can knowing that the traveling public has a legitimate interest in travel,” said Ned Price, a State Department spokesman.
If your passport is valid until the end of the year, you have a decision to make. You can send it in knowing you won’t likely get it back until the fall, and won’t be able to travel until you do. Or, you can wait a bit and see if the State Department is able to ramp up and get those wait times less than four months.